Tag: grace kara

ANZ Premiership: Southern Steel releases full squad while Pulse and Magic add to list

THERE has been plenty of player movement already in the ANZ Premiership with the Northern Stars and Northern Mystics releasing their player rosters a couple of weeks ago. Following on from that, the Southern Steel have announced their full squad for the 2021 ANZ Premiership season while both the Central Pulse and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic have released their midcourt and defensive units with the shooters still to be announced.

Arguably one of the biggest signings was that of England Roses goaler George Fisher. The Roses shooter is set to join the Southern Steel in 2021 and will be a great inclusion with her strong holds and accuracy to post a couple of focal points in her game play. The Steel will have a completely different looking shooting duo next season with two-time premiership player Tiana Metuarau making the jump from Pulse to Steel. The goal attack oozes class, impeccable timing and is not afraid to back herself range making the goaling duo an exciting prospect. Metuarau is not the only one to depart the Pulse and join the Steel with former defender-come-midcourter Renee Savai’inaea also joining the fold in 2021. The Steel also welcome Shannon Saunders and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit back for another season with the duo taking up co-captaincy roles. Youngster Taneisha Fifita, who was named in the Under 21 New Zealand squad, returns with her tenacity and physicality paramount to the way she approaches the game, while exciting wing defence Kate Heffernan is set to return after a solid season.

After spending a season with the Magic, Whitney Souness has made her way back to the Central Pulse and is set to join a stacked midcourt with Claire Kersten and new Silver Ferns squad member Maddy Gordon both re-signing to the club. There is no denying that the Pulse will have speed to burn in 2021 with Souness and Gordon renowned for their quick hands, fancy footwork and speed off the mark. In terms of defence, captain Katrina Rore has committed for another season while Kelly Jury is also set to pull on the yellow and black dress again. the duo formed a formidable combination in 2020 and will be hoping to inflict the same defensive pressure again in 2021 albeit without the services of Karin Burger who has made the switch to the Tactix. The Pulse have secured some young up and coming players with Parris Mason and Paris Lokotui who will relish the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business.

It was a challenging 2020 season for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, however heading into next year the Magic have recruited some highly experience and talented players in Temalisi Fakahokotau down back and Grace Kara through the midcourt. Fakahokotau is a game winner, able to go out hunting and change the course of a game with her tenacity and excitement. Joining her down back are Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong and while all three are typically accustomed to the goal keeper position, they have shown they can swing into goal defence when required. With Souness departing, Kara has made the change from the Stars to the Magic and will offer a great deal of experience in the frontend with her ball placement and composure. Captain Sam Winders returns for 2020 while newbies in Asher Grapes and Georgie Edgecombe round out the team so far.

ANZ Premiership: Northern Stars and Northern Mystics look to bolster 2021 squad

WITH the ANZ Premiership season done and dusted, teams have started to finalise squads for the 2021 season as the Northern Stars and Northern Mystics announced their player lists throughout the week.  There are a couple of notable changes for both sides, with some key players either departing or retiring while some shock inclusions are set to send tongues wagging next season.

The announcements did not stop there, as Central Pulse released the replacement for Yvette McCausland-Durie with Gail Parata set to take the reins for the upcoming season. After taking the Pulse to back-to-back premierships McCausland-Durie parted ways with the club, paving the way for Parata who boasts a wealth of experience having coached the Scottish Thistles for six years while also spending time as an assistant coach for the Pulse and Northern Mystics. The Pulse have already lost the services of defender Elle Temu with the goal keeper committing to the Northern Stars in hope to get some more court time, meaning Parata will be hopeful to retain the remainder of her list.

Temu joins a couple of other new faces at the Northern Stars in 2020 with Gina Crampton switching from the Southern Steel after eight years. Crampton will add a wealth of experience to the frontend with captain Grace Kara not announced in the squad. Expect Crampton to link up well with Maia Wilson given their Silver Ferns connection and sheer dominance in their respective positions. But the most surprising signing was in the form of Anna Harrison who retired from the game two years ago, but is set to make a comeback much like Renae Ingles did in the Suncorp Super Netball. Famously known for her chairlift and aerial ability Harrison is an exciting prospect for the Stars who lost Storm Purvis to retirement and Kate Burley to the Northern Mystics, however they did retain the services of the talented Oceane Maihi. Another inclusion in the form of Monica Falkner from Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and the acquisition of Amorangi Malesala who has spent time in the Australian pathways will further bolster their line-up for their 2021 campaign.

On the other hand the Northern Mystics have maintained a relatively unchanged line-up bar one or two forced changes with Phoenix Karaka announcing her pregnancy. As noted before, Burley has joined the Mystics and is likely to pair up with Sulu Fitzpatrick while Michaela Sokolich-Beatson is set to return after missing the 2020 season with injury. Speaking of injury, Silver Ferns goaler Bailey Mes has also been named for next season with the goaler offering a wealth of composure and knowledge under the post. It is no surprise the Mystics held onto talented goal shooter Grace Nweke, with the 18-year-old able to single-handedly change the course of a game. Joining her inside the goal circle is Filda Vui with the former Beko League shooter relishing the opportunity to get on court throughout the season while Saviour Tui is back for another season. Another Stars transfer in the form of Fa’amu Ioane has also been announced as part of the Mystics squad for 2021 with the wing defence boasting plenty of firepower and excitement through the middle third as the Mystics push for a potential finals tilt after falling just short this year.

The remaining four clubs are yet to announce their squads for the 2021 season but give the number of change ups already listed there could be some wholesale alterations across the board.

2020 ANZ Premiership season review – Northern Stars

IT was an unprecedented season as the ANZ Premiership came to a halt after Round 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but later returned in June to round out the remainder of the season, bar Round 10. The season saw plenty of intriguing battles as teams plied their trade across the court in hope to work their way up the ladder. Draft Central takes a look back at the year that was, with Northern Stars the next in the instalment.

Win-loss: 5-3-7
Ladder position: 4th
Captain: Grace Kara

Overall season review:

With a couple of key players retiring at seasons end in 2019, the Northern Stars unfortunately could not replicate the dominance of last year falling to fourth spot on the ladder in 2020. They showed glimpses of brilliance but simply could not maintain a full four quarter performance week in, week out to make it into finals. The return of captain Grace Kara added some grunt and finesse to the attacking end with the wing attack showcasing her cleanliness and precise ball movement, while centre, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan took the next step up with her skill to slice through the defence and hit circle edge. Jamie Hume played a solid role in goal attack and while she did not hit the scoreboard as regularly as she would have liked, it was the work out the front that shone. Fa’amu Ioane was another player that had moments of magic, but had a tendency to fade in and out of contests much like the rest of the Stars, while Lisa Mather also displayed her intent able to swing between attack and defence with relative ease.

Star player:

Goal shooter, Maia Wilson was a mainstay under the post for the Stars consistently performing, showcasing just how damaging she can be with ball in hand. Her increased endurance and movement in the circle paid dividends with the goaler able to shake up her game play when the defenders got on top of her. Wilson went from strength to strength throughout the season, carrying majority of the scoring load to register 461 goals for the season. Prolific at the post, another key feature was the accuracy in which she attacked the scoreboard at, hardly missing a goal, or on the rare occasion it was off target, the towering goaler managed to collect the rebound such was her strength. Her footwork and sheer netball smarts enabled her to claim prime position in the goal circle and while known for her close range shooting, she proved she was just as valuable from further out.

Surprise packet:

It was a relatively up and down season for the Stars however, Kate Burley remained a constant with the goal defence oozing athleticism and excitement in the defensive third. She was able to read the play with great ease and get into damaging positions to collect intercepts or force tips and turnovers. Her combination with Storm Purvis strengthened as the season went on with the two rotating through the circle seamlessly to keep the opposition attackers guessing. Not only was Burley a force in defence but was also a key cog through the centre third to drive the ball into attack and provide support on the transverse line. Her ability to change up her game depending on who she was partnered with in defence was also a prominent aspect in her game play as the defensive circle frequently changed with Oceane Maihi coming on and Daystar Swift entering the game in the latter half of the season.

2020 ANZ Premiership – Season stats leaders

THE 2020 ANZ Premiership season has come to a close with Central Pulse claiming back to back premierships after a dominant season. There were plenty of star players across the competition as Draft Central reflects on the top five players in each key performance indicator. Mainland Tactix and Northern Mystics impressed throughout the year with a couple of players featuring highly in the top five for their respective areas while Pulse also starred.

GOALS

Grace Nweke (471)
Maia Wilson (461)
Elie Bird (421)
Aliyah Dunn (340)
Kelsey McPhee (270)

It is no surprise that teenage shooting prodigy Grace Nweke tops the table for 2020 with the goal shooter once again starring for the Mystics with her high volume of shots week in week out and accuracy to post. Nweke proved to be a formidable force under the post credit to her sheer athleticism and strength. Hot on her heels in second place is Maia Wilson with the Northern Stars goal shooter guiding her side through the season acting as the go-to girl under the post. Wilson was consistent as ever and diversified her game in 2020 while Ellie Bird found some hot form towards the backend of the season to push her side into the grand final. Aliyah Dunn was influential for the Pulse sitting at the highest accuracy of the top 10 shooters in the league with 91 per cent highlighting just how damaging she was and the reason why the Pulse secured another premiership. The final spot in the top five goes to Kelsey McPhee who had somewhat of an up and down season but still managed to find the net to sink 240 goals for the year for the Magic.

CENTRE PASS RECEIVES

Gina Crampton (319)
Whitney Souness (311)
Grace Kara (250)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit (194)
Erikana Pedersen (182)

It was a testing season for the Southern Steel but that did not stop Gina Crampton with the wing attack plying her trade at the centre pass to receive a wealth of ball and create that flow in attack. Crampton showcased her speed and impressive timing to pop out at the line to take out number one spot while Whitney Souness was a key contributor for Waikato Bay of Plenty using her evasiveness to receive ball at the centre pass. Veteran and Stars captain, Grace Kara was strong at the line while two Mainland Tactix attackers round out the top five. Goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit was a real workhorse often involved in what felt like every second pass, while Erikana Pedersen showed no sign of slowing down, returning from injury this season.

FEEDS

Gina Crampton (434)
Grace Kara (394)
Whitney Souness (393)
Erikana Pedersen (384)
Peta Toeava (368)

Dominating the centre pass receives it is no surprise that Crampton starred around circle edge with her clever feeds credit to her exceptional vision into the circle. Kara was a real barometer for the Stars with the wing attack often controlling the tempo of the game and executing the pass into the shooter while Souness used her speed and give and go to hit circle edge for the Magic time and time again. Pedersen was solid for the Tactix varying her passes into the circle to keep the defenders guessing. Coming in at fifth was Peta Toeava with the speedy wing attack darting around the attacking third and taking advantage of her quick release to rack up the feeds.

REBOUNDS

Sulu Fitzpatrick (23)
Erena Mikaere (21)
Te Huinga Selby-Rickit (18)
Temalisi Fakahokotau  (16)
Katrina Rore (16)

In new colours for season 2020 Sulu Fitzpatrick did not skip a beat with the Mystics goal keeper oozing her class and experience to box out her opponents and gobble up rebounds. She was a tough competitor in the air often reeling in any shot that fell short while Erena Mikaere was also a commanding presence in the defensive third as her long limbs enabled her to collect a wealth of rebounds for Magic. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit toiled hard in defence for the Steel working in overdrive to reclaim possession while Mainland Tactix goal keeper Temalisi Fakahokotau came out with a point to prove after missing last season through injury. Fakahokotau was a menace on the rebound with her aerial ability and read on the shot while the experience and class of Katrina Rore shone allowing the Pulse defender to pick up plenty of ball.

DEFLECTIONS

Jane Watson (72)
Temalisi Fakahokotau (70)
Sulu Fitzpatrick (58)
Erena Mikaere (53)
Phoenix Karaka (49)

Mainland Tactix captain, Jane Watson led all-comers when it came to deflections with her long arms and read of the play causing a ruckus for opposition teams. Watson’s cleanliness at the contest and speed off the mark allowed her to impact the play. It is no surprise that partner in crime Fakahokotau took out second spot in the top five with the goal keeper injecting herself on the contest thanks to her fancy footwork to manoeuvre around her opponent. Fitzpatrick and Mikaere were consistent performers for their respective teams, often sitting back to read the flow of the game and then go out hunting to disrupt the attack. Captain Phoenix Karaka also proved to be a commanding force out in goal defence for the Mystics able to use her speed and long arms to force tips and chances to regain possession for her side.

INTERCEPTS

Kelly Jury (26)
Temalisi Fakahokotau (22)
Phoenix Karaka (22)
Kate Burley (22)
Karin Burger (22)

Swapping dresses in season 2020 and seeming to have recovered from a niggling shoulder injury, Kelly Jury showcased just how dominant she can be racking up a season high 26 intercepts. Jury was unstoppable in the defensive third, not afraid to go out hunting putting fear into the attackers. Fakahokotau was just as exciting as the goal keeper left no ball uncontested and used her footspeed to get hands to ball while Karaka also recorded 22 intercepts. Kate Burley was a silent achiever for the Stars showcasing moments of brilliance with her tenacity and relative cleanliness. The only non-circle defender, Karin Burger takes out fifth spot with the wing defence often leaving many in awe credit to her work around circle edge to not only stay on side but so too rack up the intercepts.

ANZ Premiership playoff hypotheticals

ALTHOUGH no ANZ Premiership playoffs will be held on Sunday due to COVID-19 precautions, Draft Central poses some hypotheticals taking into account recent form and history to predict the end result of each game, which would have completed the 2020 season. The original setup would have seen the third placed Northern Mystics take on the fourth placed Northern Stars while the last placed Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic booked a date with fifth on the ladder, Southern Steel.

NORTHERN MYSTICS (3rd) v. NORTHERN STARS (4th)

R1: Stars (55) defeated by Mystics (59)
R6: Mystics (51) defeated Stars (47)

History/recent form
The Mystics have had the wood over the Stars in their past two encounters, winning by four goals each time and making it a tough but not impossible task for the Stars heading into the clash. Falling agonisingly short of a top two spot after a couple of disappointing losses towards the backend of the season, the Northern Mystics would have been hoping to get some reward for their stellar season and hold onto third spot. They stunned the competition in 2020 with their youth taking a step up while 2019 grand finalists Northern Stars would have been hoping to end their season on a high after somewhat of a rollercoaster year.

How it could have gone down
Given their recent dominance against the Stars and the firepower they have across the court, it is fair to suggest that the game would have ended in the Mystics’ favour. Australian Emily Burgess has been a solid option in wing defence for the Mystics given her hands over pressure and speed off the mark while the switch up of Courtney Elliott into goal defence from wing defence has paid dividends with the defender hustling for every ball. Elliott can effectively ply her trade in either position and has a real desperation each time she steps out on court to regain possession and send the ball into attack making her potential match up against Stars captain Grace Kara exciting. The wing attack is a real leader for the Stars with her attack on circle edge, cleverly weighted passes into Wilson and strength to ward off defenders.

Peta Toeava has led the troops in attack throughout the season and has been busy in her past two outings against the Stars with Fa’amu Ioane unable to stop her lightning quick release into none other than Grace Nweke. Many would have expected that combination to be the breaking point for the Stars thanks to Nweke’s undeniable strength in the air and accuracy to post. However, announcing her retirement only days ago it is fair to say that Stars’ Storm Purvis would have left nothing to chance in her final game to push Nweke to her limits.

Key match-up
All eyes would have turned to the battle under the post between Maia Wilson for the Stars and the Mystics defence. Captain Phoenix Karaka has a strong record against the Stars with the goal defence able to use her experience and nous to dictate the flow of the game with her go get it mentality. Karaka is quite physical and is not afraid to contest each and every ball that comes her way partnering well with goal keeper Sulu Fitzpatrick in the defensive third. Fitzpatrick is a menace under the post with her constant niggle and clever footwork to get around the body of her opponent time and time again. Last time they met Fitzpatrick managed seven gains, an intercept and two rebounds to shut down the prolific Wilson under the post. Wilson is incredibly accurate and makes the most of her chances acting as the lynchpin for the Stars attacking unit while Jamie Hume has struggled in the past against the persistent Karaka.

Hypothetical MVP: Grace Nweke

 

SOUTHERN STEEL (5th) v. WAIKATO BAY OF PLENTY MAGIC (6th)

R1: Steel (48) defeated by Magic (54)
R6: Steel (41) defeated Magic (40)

History/recent form
The Steel were hit with injury after injury while the Magic struggled to find any continuity across the court. Last time these two sides met was back in Round 6 with the Steel getting over the line by the slimmest of margins while the encounter before that saw the Magic secure a six goal win. While the Magic only won the one match for the season, they displayed plenty of hunger and came close to wins on multiple occasions but were unable to clinch victory.

How it could have gone down
This game would have come down to pride and resilience with both teams faced with their fair share of challenges but building some strong form come the backend of the season. Sitting at one win apiece it was set to be an exciting encounter especially given the heightened stakes of not wanting to finish at the bottom of the ladder. But the devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to Holly Fowler would likely have tipped the odds into the Steel’s favour as the Magic would be forced to shake up their entire midcourt and defensive structure. With Ariana Cable-Dixon missing the latter half of the season after announcing her pregnancy the Magic would have had to bring in someone new for this game.

Captain Sam Winders was influential through the midcourt and really found her stride in centre using her defensive attributes to win ball back and then her speed and attacking mindset to swing into offence. She was likely to come up against the highly talented duo of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton in centre and wing attack respectively. The two have been relatively consistent throughout the season taking full advantage of their high level of endurance and experience to steer the ship. Kelsey McPhee, Abigail Latu-Meafou and Khiarna Williams steadily built a strong connection with Williams highlighting her versatility to move between goal shooter and goal attack and McPhee turning into a reliable source under the post. Youngster Taneisha Fifita has enjoyed the extra court time in 2020 and would have been a highly physical opponent for McPhee while Te Huinga Selby-Rickit has been the mainstay for the Steel and would have been hoping to once again lead her side to victory. Given the influx of injuries the Magic were faced with an uphill battle while the Steel had seemed to recover from the loss of Jennifer O’Connell and Kate Heffernan, making the most of their fresh faces.

Key match-up
Fowler found her feet out in wing defence allowing Erena Mikaere to ply her trade in goal defence and Georgia Tong in goal keeper to use her leap to get hands to ball. The potential match-up between Tong and Ellen Halpenny was set to be interesting as Halpenny got the chocolates last time they stepped out on court with her experience and class keeping Tong’s head on a swivel. Goal attack Kalifa McCollin was another one preparing for a big game with the shooter carving up the court with her silky footwork, spatial awareness and deadeye accuracy to post but had her work cut out for her against the long arms of Mikaere.

Hypothetical MVP: Kalifa McCollin

2020 ANZ Premiership: Most developed players

WITH Round 10 of the ANZ Premiership season cancelled due to a change in COVID-19 restrictions, Draft Central casts an eye over each side’s most developed players for 2020 ahead of the finals. It has been an unconventional season to say the least with the ANZ Premiership season brought to a halt back March due to the pandemic and teams forced to fly in and out of Auckland to comply with the restrictions in place. But that did not stop each team from performing on the big stage, with the development of a couple of key youngsters front and centre.

NORTHERN MYSTICS – Grace Nweke

Without Silver Ferns goal attack Bailey Mes, the load landed on Grace Nweke and the teenager did not disappoint. The goal shooter was formidable under the post and constantly double teamed in the goal circle thanks to her prowess and ability to score with such ease. She leads all comers when it comes to goals with a whopping 471 at an impressive 89 per cent showcasing her complete and utter dominance. Nweke was the lynchpin for the Mystics in attack, using her height, read of the play, long arms and physicality to win majority of the passes that came her way. Her ability to work within the confined space and strong connection with Peta Toeava were simply unstoppable with the two able to sync up and score within seconds. Starring last season, there were plenty of questions about whether or not she would be able to back up this season, but it is fair to say that the 18-year-old went above and beyond. Her confidence grew throughout the season and allowed Saviour Tui, Asher Grapes and Filda Vui to ply their trade out the front.

NORTHERN STARS – Mila Reuelu-Buchanan

Northern Stars centre, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan has really come into her own in 2020 earning herself back-to-back appearances in Draft Central’s Team of the Week thanks to her dynamic movement. Her vision has developed tenfold in the latter half of the year, able to sight Maia Wilson with ease under the post and become a commanding figure in attack. Reuelu-Buchanan has been key for the Stars through the centre court, often organising traffic with her well-directed passes and applying strong hands over pressure to try and slow down her opposition. The 22-year-old stepped up in the absence of Temepara Bailey who retired last year, getting down to business each and every time she takes the court. She consistently showcases her high endurance to run out full games in the centre position and not tire while combining well with Grace Kara and Jamie Hume on the front line. Her adaptability to cater for the frequent changes in wing defence with Lisa Mather and Fa’amu Ioane rotating through was also on show.

WAIKATO BAY OF PLENTY MAGIC – Kelsey McPhee

Although it was a challenging season for the Magic, Kelsey McPhee proved to be a shining light for Waikato Bay of Plenty with the goal shooter increasing her accuracy and volume to post. Shaky on the shot at times, McPhee displayed her strength to reel in the rebound and block out defenders to give her side a second chance on the shot. Carrying a knee injury later in the season the shooter rose above highlighting her grit and determination. Her ability to shake up her game play was also crucial for the Magic as she got on the move more frequently to drive out of the circle and allow either Abigail Latu-Meafou or Khiarna Williams to float in while her strong holds also allowed the Magic to score quickly. Her 1-2 connection with Whitney Souness was also solid as the two combined on circle edge and from distance credit to her aerial presence.

CENTRAL PULSE – Maddy Gordon

It became apparent in the Pulse’s Round 9 loss to the Tactix just how influential Maddy Gordon is with the pocket rocket able to set the court alight with her turn of pace and slick hands. Relishing the extra court time in 2020 Gordon has taken everything in her stride, hitting the circle edge with speed and precision to deliver the ball on a silver platter to Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio. She is crafty with ball in hand and at times can fly under the radar given the amount of big names across the court but has made a name for herself this season with her constant give and go. Strong in attack her defensive pressure is also a key asset of her game able to win back through the centre third with her three-foot marking and deceptive leap. Her connection with Claire Kersten has developed at a rate of knots throughout the season allowing the two to swing the ball across the court with ease to create space and keep the defenders head on a swivel.

MAINLAND TACTIX – Kimiora Poi

Kimiora Poi is another centre court player who has been in ripping form throughout 2020 and put her hand up for Silver Ferns contention thanks to her strong drives and endurance. She has been a key cog through the midcourt for the Tactix, using her zippy speed to cut through the defence and claim possession. She is quick off the mark and is patient with ball in hand, not afraid to work the ball to circle edge or deliver from distance into the goalers. Her high release on the pass allows Ellie Bird to grab the ball at its peak and keep defenders at bay while her short and sharp interactions with Te Paea Selby-Rickit is a testament to her ability to read the play and play accordingly. Poi is constantly on the move, rotating around the circle edge and setting up clever triangle plays with the goalers and Erikana Pedersen to keep the defenders guessing.

SOUTHERN STEEL – Kate Heffernan

A relatively unknown quantity heading into the season, Kate Heffernan took the competition by storm in 2020 and all but cemented her spot as the starting wing defence for the Steel. She is electric across the court credit to her impressive closing speed to create doubt in the receivers mind and force turnovers. her long wingspan is a crucial to the Steel in defence able to apply strong hands over pressure to block her oppositions vision into the circle and make life hard for them around circle edge. Heffernan is also strong in transition constantly reoffering on the transverse line to reset play or drive through the centre third to punch through and open up space. Her connection with the experienced Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and youngster Taneisha Fifita in defence and combine with Shannon Saunders through the midcourt allows her to play with confidence and back herself to go out hunting for an intercept.

2020 ANZ Premiership- Preview: Round 9

TWO weeks out from ANZ Premiership finals, it is do or die for the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix who are battling for second spot on the ladder while the Central Pulse have first spot all but sewn up. Conversely, up the other end of the ladder the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Southern Steel are keen to avoid the wooden spoon and progress up the rankings with a strong finish to the season.

Southern Steel v. Northern Mystics
Friday, 7 August

The round starts with a clash between fifth and third on the ladder with the Steel hosting the Mystics. The Steel will take plenty of confidence out of their last outing downing the Mystics by six goals in Round 7 and while they cannot make finals will be eager to influence how the rest of the season pans out.

The injuries for the Steel have come hard and fast especially in the goal circle but with a couple of games under their belts the connection between Ellen Halpenny and Kalifa McCollin is starting to blossom. Halpenny provides that calming element to the goal circle with her precise movements and impeccable timing to pop out right on cue while McCollin has plenty of flair and dynamism to keep the Mystics defenders busy. The two share the shooting load between them meaning the Mystics will have to focus their energy on both goalers if they are to shut down any easy avenue to post. Sulu Fitzpatrick is a seasoned campaigner able to hold her own in the goal circle and win back ball with her long arms and quick feet to get around the body of her opponent. Partner in crime Phoenix Karaka is just as damaging down back able to shut down her opponent with her smothering pressure and three-foot marking. Although the combination with McCollin and Halpenny is developing, Karaka and Fitzpatrick have proven to be a formidable force meaning the Steel will have to be on their a-game.

Wing defence Kate Heffernan has been in ripping form lately with the young midcourter taking everything in her stride and working hard to own that defensive position. She is a constant threat around circle edge with her long arms but will take on speedster Peta Toeava who not only oozes pace but is renowned for her quick release into the circle. The Steel have options if Heffernan is unable to shut down powerhouse wing attack with Kendall Corkery a more physical and niggly style of player, able to get under the skin of Toeava and reduce her efficiency in attack.

With second spot still up for grabs expect the Mystics to throw everything they have at the Steel and exploit their new connections across the court.

 

Southern Steel v. Central Pulse
Saturday, 8 August

Dropping their first game for this season last round expect the Central Pulse to come out with a real fire in the belly and get the job done early against the Southern Steel. Renowned for their full court pressure and ability to treasure ball the Pulse will be keen to rectify last week’s shortcomings but the Steel will take in a sense of belief after pushing the reigning premiers to their limits in their last meeting.

The midcourt battle will be ferocious with a couple of Silver Ferns lining up against each other. After somewhat of a quiet performance last week Karin Burger will be hoping to assert herself against the Steel and shut down Gina Crampton‘s drive to the top of the circle. Burger is recognised for her three foot marking and long arms to block vision into the goal circle, something that she will be hoping to bring against the Steel in order to limit the influence of Crampton in attack. Partner in crime Shannon Saunders is a real workhorse through the midcourt for the Steel able to have an influence both in an attack in attack and in defence. She will have the job on Pulse centre Claire Kersten making for an intriguing battle between the two given their similarities in game style. Kersten is the key for the Pulse through the midcourt able to provide that consistency and link between attack and defence.

Down on their usual accuracy last week the Central Pulse will be hoping that Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn deliver to post. Ekenasio is a real player maker through the attacking third with her impeccable timing and clever touch to deliver ball on a silver platter to Dunn. They have one of the strongest connections in the competition with the two able to light up the court with their flair and clever ability to create space time and time again. Dunn is a strong holding shooter that is able to post up and command the ball no matter the defensive pressure. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit is the most experienced defender in the Steel defensive unit and will have to lead by example if they are to win ball back. Goal keeper Taneisha Fifita has struggled in the past couple of weeks drawing a lot of attention from the umpires, something she will have to address this game if she is to mount pressure on the Pulse and not give them free attempts at goal. The introduction of Abby Erwood could provide that extra element of composure in defence.

Coming off a loss expect the Pulse to bounce back and showcase why they are the reigning premiers with a strong performance across all four quarters against the Steel.

Northern Mystics v. Mainland Tactix
Sunday, 9 August

In their second game of the round the Mystics will want to leave nothing to chance against the second placed Tactix in hope to progress up the ladder and get one step closer to securing a finals berth. In arguably the game of the round both teams will be hoping to prove their worth and showcase why they deserve a spot in the finals. These two teams have a decorated history and are evenly poised heading into the match.

It will all come down to the battle in the goal circle with teenage shooting prodigy Grace Nweke the key to Mystics success given her impressive holds, high volume and accuracy the post. Nweke is a commanding figure under the post and can change the course of a game in an instant given the speed with which she can score and her strength in the air to reel in errant passes time and time again. However their weakness lies within the goal attack position with the likes of Saviour Tui and Filda Vui exciting young prospects but unable to consistently deliver the output required. Tui and Vui are clever with ball in hand but sometimes lack the confidence to go to post piling a wealth of pressure on Nweke to deliver and steer the ship for the Mystics. On the other hand, the Tactix have one of the best defensive units in the competition with Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson ball magnets down back. Watson is exceptionally clean in defence, able to pick up ball without getting penalised and making her a constant threat for any team, while her drive through the midcourt provides an added boost to the Tactix transition. Impressive individually, the connection between the two defenders is what really puts them ahead of the pack given Fakahokotau can read the play with ease and dictate Watson’s position according to what is unfolding in front of her. It will be up to Vui and Tui to draw the attention of Watson to isolate Fakahokotau and Nweke under the post.

With speed to burn through the midcourt it will be an exciting battle between Tayla Earle and Tactix centre Kimiora Poi as the two possess very similar attributes in the way they hunt the ball and then seamlessly switch into attack. They will match each other for speed and vision into the circle making for a tight tussle. Toeava is another key cog for the Mystics in attack while for the Tactix Erikana Pedersen has proven to be the link into the goalers with her dynamic footwork, quick hands and confidence on the pass to bypass the defenders and look long.

The last time these two sides met the Tactix clinched the narrowest of victories and will be hoping to build on that momentum to edge further ahead on the ladder.

 

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic v. Northern Stars
Sunday, 9 August

In their sole game of the round expect both the Magic and Stars to go toe-to-toe throughout the four quarters. With a renewed sense of confidence and a win under their belt the Magic will be keen to keep the good times rolling and secure their second win in as many days. Plagued by inconsistency this season the Stars will be hoping to rectify their issues and record their fifth win.

There is no denying that Maia Wilson is the lynchpin in attack for the Stars with the goal shooter a commanding target under the post with her strong holds and high scoring nature. Wilson is incredibly accurate shooting at a combined 94 per cent last round, a feat she will be hoping to replicate once again this week to lead her side to victory. Although Wilson is the go to girl the Stars do their most damage when goal attack Jamie Hume goes to post and troubles the scoreboard. If she can draw the attention of Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong it will alleviate the pressure on Wilson under the post and help split the circle to create more one on ones at the post. While Tong is not the tallest defender in the league she makes up for it with her aerial presence and impressive leap to get hands to ball and disrupt the flow in attack, something the Magic will be relying on throughout the contest.

Khiarna Williams has been a revelation for the Magic in attack proving she can play both goal shooter and goal attack with the 17-year-old taking like a duck to water each time she steps out on court. Her growing connection with Kelsey McPhee under the post and Abigail Latu-Meafou is something to behold as the trio are getting stronger and stronger each week. McPhee is an easy target under the post for the Magic meaning the Stars defensive unit of Storm Purvis, Kate Burley and Daystar Swift will have to put in the hard yards out the front to limit her influence to post. The high ball into the circle is often the go to passage of play for the Magic which plays into the tenacious and ball hungry Stars defence.

With relatively even match ups across the court it will come down to the midcourt battle with captain Sam Winders the barometer for the Magic and Grace Kara the playmaker for the Stars. If Winders can dictate the flow through the middle and win ball back the Magic could register another victory.

 

Central Pulse v. Mainland Tactix
Monday, 10 August

The final game of the round sees a battle of the top two teams with the Central Pulse hoping to make it three straight wins against the Mainland Tactix. Falling agonisingly short in Round 6 the Tactix will be hoping to go one better and upset the Pulse to prove that they are a real finals contender. Playing in their second game of the round it could come down to the depth on the bench and who can withstand the high intensity battle.

Ellie Bird has really hit her strides in the past couple of weeks with the goal shooter dictating the space and using her height to full advantage to reel in passes and shoot truly. Bird is an exciting prospect when she is on song able to nullify the influence of her defender and use her clever footwork to move around the body of her defender and allow the likes of Te Paea Selby-Rickit to come through and have an influence in the goal circle. Selby-Rickit, while she might not put up a wealth of shots, does a plethora of work out the front to deliver the ball into Bird and create attacking forays. In saying that, the Pulse have their own star power down in defence with Kelly Jury having a breakout season, showcasing her exceptional lean over the shot and read of the play to create constant disruption down back. Her ever developing connection with Katrina Rore causes plenty of headaches for opposition teams with the two able to hunt the ball while Elle Temu is a solid option off the bench, able to come on and have an immediate impact with her hands over pressure.

The Pulse have speed to burn through the centre court with Maddy Gordon a real excitement machine and energiser bunny able to hit the circle edge with great speed and tenacity. Impressive in attack it is Gordon’s work through the centre third and defensive pressure to try and win ball back that makes her such a dominant threat. Able to play both goal and wing attack Tiana Metuarau is another player to keep an eye on for the Pulse with her spatial awareness and pinpoint passes into the circle. It will be up to wing defence Charlotte Elley to really shut down the influence of Gordon and Metuarau to ensure that the Pulse have limited opportunity to go forward and score. In recent weeks the inclusion of Samon Nathan into wing defence has provided a different element for the Tactix down back.

Expect this game to go down to the wire with neither side willing to give an inch and fighting not only for the win but momentum heading into finals.

ANZ Premiership: Round 8 – Deadly opening quarter gives Stars the edge

COMING off a difficult loss against the Mainland Tactix, the Northern Stars had no issue dominating the Southern Steel with a convincing 50-43 win. Uncertainty and a lack of connection in the Steel attack end, due to a string of unfortunate injuries, meant that a tenacious Stars defence were able to come out on top thanks to a strong first term. Despite their big win over the Mystics in Round 7, there were too many holes in the Steel game in this match, and they lacked their usual intensity against a clean and ferocious Stars outfit. The Stars broke a four-game losing streak and will secure themselves in fourth position on the ANZ Premiership ladder.

Kalifa McCollin was given the start at goal shooter for the Steel, with Kiana Pelasio slotting into McCollin’s typical goal attack role. McCollin had suffered an ankle injury in the previous round and the effect of this may have contributed to this position switch, giving her a little less running around to do. Due to these changes in their shooting end, Steel were relying heavily on Silver Fern Gina Crampton to have an outstanding game, to give them a chance at taking a win. The Steel got off to a shaky start and were not able to find each other easily or balance the space on the court. In contrast, the Stars came out of the blocks with plenty of punch in attack and set the tone for the game early. Grace Kara was combining well with Maia Wilson and Jamie Hume grew into the game in her supporting role. After a few soft turnovers from both teams, Kate Burley stepped up a gear notching up a rebound and then an interception within a few minutes. The Stars defence were getting the measure of the Steel attack, with Pelasio unable to convincingly draw the defenders away from McCollin under the post. Another gain from the Stars, this time from Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and they made no mistake at the post, sneaking out to 10-6 midway through the first quarter.

An early change saw Kendall Corkery replace Georgia Heffernan at wing defence, but the Steel were not managing to convert their turnovers and were wasting ball in attack. Another four-goal run for the Stars saw them extend their lead to 16-7 at the first break. Stars were totally in control, creating plenty of opportunities for themselves and forcing the Steel into making silly errors, then capitalising at the post. Steel had eight turnovers in the first quarter and felt compelled to make a change at quarter time. Heffernan was matching up well against Stars captain Kara but ended up replacing Shannon Saunders at centre, a switch-up we have not seen much of at all this season. Ellen Halpenny also slotted into goal shooter with McCollin moving out to goal attack where she seemed more comfortable. These changes had a good impact for the Steel and they managed three in a row to start the second quarter. The Stars were able to regroup and regain control as the quarter progressed, and flooding the middle channel to force a long ball was proving very effective for them. Another gain from Burley took her total to three intercepts and the Stars restored their healthy seven-goal lead.

The midcourt battles were shaping up nicely, with both teams evenly matched in the centre third. Corkery was scrappy; squaring up to Kara and doing her best to keep her away from circle edge, while Heffernan’s defensive prowess was earning the Steel some much-needed turnover ball. With more minutes in centre at this level, her feeding confidence and ball release will improve and she could be a very handy option for the Steel midcourt. Lisa Mather was working hard on Crampton, but the experienced wing attack had the measure of her opposition and was growing into the combination with McCollin and Halpenny. After a much improved quarter from the Southern side, the teams headed into the break with the Stars leading 26-19.

With the defensive end on fire, and Maia Wilson shooting at 100 per cent, it is no surprise that the Stars were still holding onto a solid lead. They were playing like a team that backed themselves to win, and the Steel just were not creating enough opportunities for their attackers. In terms of penalties, Steel were on 29 by half-time, with over 15 of these given to Taneisha Fifita. This released all the Steel defensive pressure, giving Wilson numerous free shots to the post. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit was not managing to have her usual impact on the game, and the Steel really needed someone to lift them and provide an energy boost. The Stars kept grinding away, with the speed and slick movement through their midcourt leaving the Steel defenders behind them. In a much-needed switch up, which possibly could have come a little earlier in the game, Fifita went to the bench with Selby-Rickit taking on Wilson in the goal keeper position and Abby Erwood providing a new look at goal defence. Crampton pulled off a fantastic interception at the transverse line and this seemed to be the spark the Steel needed. They went on a three-goal run with Halpenny continuing to demonstrate her reliability and experience at the post. However, the attempted comeback came too late and Stars were able to maintain an eight-goal advantage going into the final term.

With the final quarter underway, the Steel looked as though they would be happy to settle for a bonus point. They lacked speed and anticipation in their defensive end and were struggling to keep up with Wilson and Hume. They were showing patches of good play, with Mather doing a heap of work transitioning the ball down court and the attack end finding some rhythm, but they still have a lot of work to do going forwards. Through the midcourt, the Steel were able to disrupt play, but their circle defence was far too flat and quiet against the likes of the prolific Maia Wilson. Despite a late run of goals from the Steel, the Stars kept them at bay with a seven-goal win, denying Steel a bonus point once again.

Standouts from the game have got to be Kate Burley and Kate Heffernan, each claiming three intercepts and Heffernan coming into her own at centre. It is also hard to look past Maia Wilson shooting at 100 per cent, who earned herself a well-deserved MVP award. Both the Steel and the Stars will take on the Magic in their next game, giving them the chance to consolidate the good patches from today’s game and strengthen connections as the regular season draws to a close.

>>> STARS TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

NORTHERN STARS 16 | 10 | 12 | 12 (50)
SOUTHERN STEEL 7 | 12 | 11 | 13 (43)

STARTING SEVEN:

Northern Stars:

GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Jamie Hume
WA: Grace Kara
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Lisa Mather
GD: Kate Burley
GK: Storm Purvis

Southern Steel:

GS: Kalifa McCollin
GA: Kiana Pelasio
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

ANZ Premiership – Young gun focus: Round 8

WITH a host of young talent littered throughout the ANZ Premiership competition Draft Central takes a look at one key player each week. This week Southern Steel midcourter Kate Heffernan is in the spotlight, with the wing defence playing her role well over the past few weeks and upping her pressure.

Age: 20
Height: 181cm
Position: WD/C

A versatile midcourter, 20-year-old Heffernan has set herself up for a solid season with her improved speed and movement in her second year with the Steel. With a proven work ethic and plenty of drive to go better than her last effort, Heffernan has been a crucial link-up in wing defence this season, plying her trade for much of the season down back and using her attacking ability to drive the ball back up the court where required. Elite netball runs in the Heffernan family, with mother Annette Heffernan a Silver Fern of the 1980s, while twin sister Georgia also took the court for the Steel this season before a devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury cut her season short.

On the taller side for a midcourter, Heffernan uses her long wingspan to reach for the loose ball and play a blocking defensive game, able to cut off her opposition with her unsuspectingly quick footwork as well as block vision down the court. Patient with ball in hand and able to ply her trade across any midcourt position after transitioning to wing defence from centre last season, Heffernan plays with plenty of intensity to create loose ball and provide defensive gets for her teammates down back.

While not always having a huge match on the stats sheet, Heffernan proves her necessity on the court with her ability to shut down attackers, once again using her height to limit vision. She is able to track her wing attack around the court regardless of their speed, with her long legs allowing her to stay a step ahead. This was evident in her Round 7 effort against Northern Mystics, with the young talent shutting down livewire Peta Toeava leading to the wing attack’s removal from the court, which was a crucial point for the Steel’s victory.

Heffernan’s ability to disrupt play is crucial while her ability to stay away from the whistle is just as impressive, averaging about seven penalties per game and with just eight turnovers to her name across her 10 matches, indicating her cleanliness with ball in hand. Pairing up well with Shannon Saunders in centre, Heffernan has developed her craft with Saunders’ help, becoming a more dogged and influential player every time she takes the court. Heffernan’s turn of speed has allowed her to rack up 23 deflections, 12 pickups and 10 intercepts for the season, consistently providing that extra defensive layer down back and limiting the work Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita have to do outside the circle.

In Round 8, expect Heffernan to maintain that work rate against some quality opposition, first taking on Northern Stars’ Grace Kara on Saturday evening – with the Stars coming off a hefty loss – before facing Whitney Souness and a hungry Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic side on Monday night. Both players are high-impact players but their sides have been shut down fairly well this season when the wing attack has been limited at circle edge, meaning Heffernan’s job could be the game-changer on both occasions.

ANZ Premiership – Round 8: Tactix too good in front of sellout home crowd

A SELLOUT crowd headlined the opening match of ANZ Premiership Round 8, with Mainland Tactix hosting their first match of the season and taking on the Northern Stars for the second time in just five days. With Tactix getting the win last round the Stars were back with a vengeance but with second position on the ladder up for grabs the Tactix were just too good, winning 52-42 in an exciting and high-energy contest.

The matchup between Maia Wilson and Temalisi Fakahokotau was huge from the get-go, with an ANZ Premiership record 5500 strong crowd behind their Tactix keeper from the get-go. The match saw a mostly even start, with both teams taking advantage of a couple of early deflections as the opposition settled in. The Stars’ quickfire passes were quickly made apparent, speeding down the side channels of the court and zipping around for a couple easy goals.

Jane Watson was quick to take advantage of the predictable movement however, taking a fantastic cross-court intercept to disrupt the flow and extend the Tactix to a lead, coming up with another clever goal not long after and soon the home side had extended to a three goal margin. Wilson continued to be a focal point for the Stars, with Jamie Hume assisting well to begin with credit to her speed and improved accuracy.

Where the Stars defenders were at a loss of how to combat Ellie Bird last round, they came out fighting and making Bird work hard to find the ball, forcing the tall timber to use her footwork to move for the netball. Speed into the goal circle was crucial for the Stars, with Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Grace Kara serving the ball on a platter to Wilson but needing to do it quick to evade Fakahokotau on the leap and saying toe-to-toe with the Tactix, trailing 13-11 at the first change.

An interesting change was made to start the second, with Daystar Swift bringing a physical element to the Stars defence line, with the Trinidad and Tobago product matching Bird for height and hoping to have more of an impact than her last outing which only saw her on court for five minutes. After a couple slow matches, Te Paea Selby-Rickit proved crucial once more in attack with her ability to not only go to post but also spot Bird at the post, though that was something that the Stars were able to exploit plucking a couple balls out of the air.

Erikana Pedersen was on fire in the first and backed it up in the second, with her reliability on the drive and wealth of speed allowing the Tactix to make use of a couple crucial intercepts to extend their lead. The Stars were error-ridden in the second quarter, wasting a couple opportunities going cross-court, with Watson able to get hands to turnover ball with ease thanks to her clear vision and long reach.

While Swift was playing a physical game and attracting a fair bit of attention from the umpires, Fakahokotau was doing everything she could to get hands to ball and put off Wilson who had missed just one shot by the main change. A huge couple of minutes by the Tactix saw the home side extend to an eight-goal lead at half time, 28-20.

The Stars made another change heading into the third, with Swift leaving the court for the regular combination of Kate Burley and Storm Purvis once more, while the injection of Fa’amu Ioane helped to shut down an element of the Tactix midcourt, doing a heap of work to shut down Pedersen and limit the Tactix’ speed in attack. Ioane’s work on the transverse paid dividends, allowing more of a split around the circle from Reuelu-Buchanan and Kara.

Watson continued to star in the third, with the formidable defender far too good on Hume and running the young player ragged through the midcourt to exploit Stars’ holes in attack. While Wilson continued to impact, Fakahokotau’s pressure and physicality was constant, blocking vision with her long reach and footwork to get around the body.

The Tactix had to do a heap of work to get ball into the circle, and while they were still ahead by a wide margin the Stars were working hard to limit avenues to post and force continuous feeds around circle edge. Soon the margin had closed to just three goals, with the combination of Ioane and Reuelu-Buchanan impressing defensively to stem the flow of attack, with Pedersen and Poi unable to zip around as per usual to control the space.

With the scoreline reduced early in the quarter the Tactix stole back some momentum, seeing the intense contest continue with no easy avenues to goal for either team but the Tactix taking advantage of any holes in the plan they could find, with the Tactix back to a six-goal lead at the final change, 37-31. Within touching distance of the Tactix, the Stars started the last quarter well but just could not get hands to enough turnover ball, with their only intercept still a mishap pass straight to Swift in the second. With no secure ball taken to turn over possession, the Stars were relying too much on getting a deflection but the Tactix were more than capable of getting to the loose ball first. 

Fakahokotau really switched on in the last quarter, upping her physicality – if possible – and reaping the rewards with her ability to find the ball paying dividends for the Tactix. Charlotte Elley was hungry for the ball in wing defence, though so was a mid-quarter Stars change in Oceane Maihi who entered the fray in time for a 10-goal margin in the way of the Tactix. The height difference was immediately apparent, and while Maihi’s different take on the goal keeper position paid off with a couple of plays forcing Bird to the goal line it was not enough to really reduce that margin with Bird’s confidence seeing her shoot from range with ease where required. A huge last few minutes saw the Tactix finish with their best score for the season, building off the impressive crowd for an excellent 52-42 victory. 

Player of the match Pedersen was influential with 23 goal assists, able to spot Bird at the post from a mile away, with the shooter racking up 37 goals for a second match straight at 88 per cent accuracy. Selby-Rickit was solid with 15 goals and an intercept to her name, while Watson and Fakahokotau were outstanding, with Watson starring in the first half and Fakahokotau a force to be reckoned with in the second half. The defensive duo racked up 11 gains (six intercepts) between them, with three of Fakahokotau’s intercepts coming in the final quarter as the pressure mounted.

For the Stars, Wilson was consistent as ever carrying the load with 35 goals from 41 attempts at 85 per cent, while Hume shot seven goals and collected a handful of assists and centre pass receives to play her role out the front alongside Kara and Reuelu-Buchanan. Burley racked up just the two gains from her six deflections but was solid against two taller attackers while Purvis collected four pickups.

Both teams play again this round though will be glad to have a few days off after the physical matchup, with the Stars back on the court on Saturday evening to face the Southern Steel while Tactix travel to take on Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on Sunday.

>>>TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>>STARS TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

MAINLAND TACTIX 13 | 15 | 9 | 15 (52)
NORTHERN STARS 11 | 9 | 11 | 11 (42)

STARTING SEVEN

Tactix

GS: Ellie Bird
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit
WA: Erikana Pedersen
C: Kimiora Poi
WD: Charlotte Elley
GD: Jane Watson
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau

Stars

GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Jamie Hume
WA: Grace Kara
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Lisa Mather
GD: Kate Burley
GK: Storm Purvis